Remembering Charles Officer
Posted: Feb 1, 2024
Posted: Feb 1, 2024
Charles was born and raised in Toronto. He was a fashion model, hockey player and began his film career as an actor appearing on stage, film, and television productions, before making his directorial debut at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with his short film When Morning Comes. Soon after, he continued to amaze audiences through the release of his short films Short Hymn, Silent War (2002), Pop Song and Urda/Bone (2003), and a music video for K’naan’s Strugglin. Throughout his career, Charles always displayed great versatility, and was often regarded as a leader in Black Canadian independent film, a title that will remain as part of his legacy. His 2008 feature, Nurse.Fighter.Boy, which was produced while he was a resident at the CFC, premiered at TIFF and was nominated for 10 Genie Awards, sparking world renowned interest and intrigue in the then upcoming filmmaker.
In the span of his career, Charles continued to deliver on his promising talent with features including The Skin We’re In, Unarmed Verses and his latest, crime-noir Akilla’s Escape. Charles also directed four episodes of the CBC/BET+ drama, The Porter, which follows railway workers from both Canada and the United States who come together to create the world’s first Black union. The Porter went on to win 12 awards at the 2023 Canadian Screen Awards, which earned Charles awards for Best Direction, Drama Series and Best Dramatic Series. The Porter is Canada’s largest Black-led television series, and demonstrates Charles’ commitments to nurturing Black talent and contributing to the increased representation of Black creators. Charles served as a trailblazer for Black creators by championing stories through his roles as the co-founder of Black Screen Office, an organization that supports Black Canadians working throughout the screen industries to build their careers, networks, and more. Additionally, he was the Founder of the award-winning independent production company, Canesugar Filmworks.
In remembering Charles, we relish in the great memories we cherished with him, including our collaboration on CFC BLOCKO!, a seven-part call to action doc series featuring personal conversations with Black creators and CFC alumni, and CFC Founder, Norman Jewison. Charles’ vision for CFC BLOCKO! was to unify support for future Black creators. To see it through, he sat down with some of Canada’s most celebrated Black creators including director/executive producer Clement Virgo (RUDE, The Book of Negroes, Greenleaf); producer Lea Marin (What is Democracy?, Unarmed Verses); writer/co-executive producer Shernold Edwards (A Day Late and a Dollar Short, Haven, Anne With An E); executive producer/media executive Joan Jenkinson (Songs of Freedom, Inside the Mind of Leonardo, Soul); director Dawn Wilkinson (How to Get Away with Murder, Locke & Key); and actor Cara Ricketts (Anne with an E, Far Cry New Dawn). These 10-minute in-depth conversations, which are available on YouTube, reveal the raw and often tumultuous journey for Black creators navigating through the screen industry “Charles was deeply valued to those who knew him. He had a passion for storytelling, championing of Black and under-represented voices, and stood as a beacon of hope for Black creators who dream of amplifying their artistry”, says CFC Executive Director, maxine bailey. The final episode of the series is with the late Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night) about social justice and our responsibility as storytellers.
During the CFC’s longstanding relationship with Charles, we were fortunate to witness his remarkable range and growth from a young filmmaker, to one of the Canadian screen industry’s most respected visionaries. Charles had an innate charm and presence that lit up every room he entered. His body of work both on and off the screen will forever remain a testament to the dedication he had in expanding Black voices and creating opportunities for the next generation of Black storytellers. Among his many talents, was Charles’ gift of creating meaningful connections that made him such a rare and treasured individual – one that we will remember for generations to come.
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